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Loudoun Literacy Council’s Family Literacy Department held its annual, Fall for Reading, on Sunday, September 8, at the Rust Library in Leesburg. This free event, now in its 5th year, promotes the importance of reading together as a family all year long. It is held in conjunction with National Family Literacy Week and is sponsored by Loudoun Public Library. This year’s features included a professional face painter,  an arts and crafts tent, refreshments and free books for all. The highlight of the day was magician Tom Lilly, with a presentation of “Books are a Blast”. He had lots of audience participation in his book-themed program and topped off the day by creating one-of-a-kind balloon animals for all of the participants. Each year, attendance continues to grow as more and more families in the community are made aware through local news outlets, flyers, and calendar postings. This year we were very happy to see returning families and some of our Head Start friends!

Each year, the library works with Loudoun Literacy to support this important endeavor and we rely on the generosity of the community to make it all happen. This year’s supporters included Ben Franklin, Giant and Wegmans, in Leesburg. In addition, we had over 300 volunteer hours donated by local girl scouts, teens, and others in the community. Thanks to all of you who were able to stop by and see us!

 

Written by: Tanya Bosse, Family Literacy Program Director

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SUMC Beginner 8

As September winds to a close, the Adult Literacy Program staff is pleased to see the arrival of our fall 2013 term classes.  Our ESL classes now include an amazing 167 students from 33 countries and speaking 27 different native languages!  It’s exciting to see the program continue to grow in overall size and to meet students from such a diverse range of backgrounds.  Classes are now underway at ten sites across the county, including libraries, elementary schools, Douglass Community Center, and Sterling United Methodist Church.

With the start of a new academic year, my beginner class is focusing on the fundamentals of everyday conversation and classroom-related vocabulary.  Working with a full classroom of English students for the first time was a daunting task, but the teacher training program and the lesson planning resources here were tremendously helpful.  I’m greatly looking forward to working with my students on locations, types of businesses and occupations, and how to provide personal information in the coming weeks.

We would also like to extend a welcome to the thirteen new volunteers who completed our teacher/tutor training on the 14th and 21st of September.  It was great to meet some of the people who are going to be helping our program in the future, and interesting for me personally to try to absorb as much valuable teaching insight as possible from Claudia, Carrie, and Susan while also setting up materials as needed.  Congratulations to Becky, Ceil, Deborah, Keith, Laurie, Leena, Manuel, Margie, Marlene, Mary Jane, Sandra, Sherry, and Shirley for completing the training!

-Stephen Ours

AmeriCorps Member 2013-2014

Stephen Ours 2013-2014

This month we are fortunate to introduce a new AmeriCorps member, Stephen Ours, to the LLC team for the 2013-2014 service year! Stephen will be working with the Adult Literacy Program, teaching both ESOL and GED classes. Carrie and Claudia are so excited to have him on board as we begin a new year!

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Stephen Ours joined Loudoun Literacy council as an AmeriCorps member for the 2013-2014 year in September.  He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from George Mason University.  He has recent experience working with middle and high school students in mathematics and reading at Huntington Learning Center.  Stephen is looking forward to the opportunity to work with a different segment of the Loudoun population and hopes to help enable members of the community to effectively share information and ideas.

 

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Carrie’s Reflections: 

I am glad that I am able to continue my AmeriCorps service for the 2013-2014 year at Loudoun Literacy Council. These past 11 months have been an incredible learning experience for me that I refuse to let go of quite yet! My experience teaching beginner level English learners is finished. But, fortunately I will be back for another year to continue teaching intermediate and/or advanced learners and tutor students individually.

Working for a local non-profit in an area that is deemed “affluent” and learning of the socio-economic hardships and the difficultly of the language barrier of so many of my students has helped me better my perspective of the community of Loudoun County. Seeing my students in the classroom and learning of their struggles has kept me motivated in LLC’s mission to change lives through learning. The class sessions that I have taught, including the most recent summer term, has left me inspired. The students who have passed through our classroom doors are so determined to learn the language to not only better their daily life experiences but that of their friends and families, and often times, their children.

I have developed an attachment to my beginner level learners and have seen their growth since the early months of October and January to now. Their desire to keep coming back and continue their learning experience in the classroom is incredible.  Students arrive to class coming from an 8 hour work day or from caring for their children all day to sit for 2 hour sessions and learn a foreign language, makes me realize what the phrase, “hard work”, really means.

I have learned so much about developing a lesson that combines different learning styles, grammar, life skills, vocabulary, and pronunciation. I’ve learned since October, when I first entered into the classroom, that I can do this and that my students encourage with their willingness to learn. Students dedicate approximately 8 to 32 hours per session to learn the language that we so often take for granted. I have covered topics from time and money to asking and giving directions. My students have learned the complexities of basic English grammar such as the verb “to be” and “wh” questions. They have learned so much vocabulary and have practiced pronunciating words in English that are even tricky for native English speakers!

I am also truly grateful for my teacher assistants, Kathleen, Tina, Beth, Erin, and Robbie, for volunteering their time to help me in the classroom, and more importantly, help our students achieve a better grasp of the English language. Their motivation to help and see our student’s thrive is also a motivating factor for me to continue my experience in the classroom and working with our incredible Adult Literacy volunteers.

I am also grateful for my AmeriCorps team member, Susan. She has taught me what the word passion really means. Her incredible patience and her adaptability and flexibility, has definitely rubbed off on me. She is such a great team member and we were able to work so well together. My experience would not have been what it was without her. I’m sad to see her go, but I am excited for her to come back to the D.C. area in a year or so, so we can reunite!

Working with the Loudoun Literacy Council community and staff members and working as a team member in both the classroom and administratively has taught me so many lessons. This 2012-2013 AmeriCorps year was such a great post-collegiate experience for me and I encourage any recent college grad or young professional to dedicate a year or two of their lives doing national and community service. It has been the most rewarding experience that I have had so far in my life.

I cannot reiterate how excited I am to continue my service with Loudoun Literacy. To be a part of the continued positive transformation that has been developing over the past year for LLC is amazing. I cannot wait to see what’s next for the organization and for our future English Language Leaners!

You’ll hear from me again soon!

Susan’s Reflections:

With the arrival of August, my time as a beginner level ESOL teacher for Loudoun Literacy Council has come to an end.   On August 9th, I will say goodbye to Loudoun Literacy Council as an AmeriCorps Member.  Fortunately, I will be in the area until late September, so I will be able to volunteer and help with September’s registrations and volunteer training.  In October, I will start a new journey with my husband as we return to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri for a bit.

It is hard to summarize my year of experience in a few short words.  When I started my year with AmeriCorps, I was unaware of how special and touching this year would be to me.  I remember being unsure how to talk to people on the phone who spoke little English, and then being nervous on my first night of teaching.  In reflecting back, my lesson plans have improved greatly from my first term of teaching to my last term of teaching.  I have learned new techniques in the classroom, and I have worked hard to make the classroom more interactive and more focused on my specific students’ goals.  I have also noticed how much I have grown in confidence in speaking in front of others.   Most importantly, I have truly learned about the adult immigrant communities in Loudoun County and other nearby counties.  In the past, I have worked with international students at different colleges and in Vietnam, but this AmeriCorps experience led me to work directly with the local immigrant community who have everyday struggles, who are hardworking, and who are motivated to learn English in order to have a successful life for themselves and oftentimes their children in the United States.  With the new GED class program we started, I had the fortunate opportunity to hear why each student wanted to take the class.   Hearing their stories truly makes me appreciate the small things in life even more, and it makes me motivated to serve in every community that I may live in the future.

There will be certain lessons and certain stories that I will remember from my classrooms this year.  Every class had different dynamics, but each class was just as great as the one before.  Throughout this year, I had students apply and receive library cards, a student check out her first book at the library, a student open up a bank account, students get jobs, students form friendships with classmates outside of class, a student receive her Green card, and a student pass her Driver’s License test.  I am so proud of my students’ accomplishments throughout this year of teaching.   At the end of the day, despite how tedious lesson planning can sometimes be, watching my students improve their English skills and increase their confidence with each class and term has been one of the most rewarding parts of teaching ESOL.

I am thankful for my assistants, Jackie, Laura, and Radhika, who all helped me grow as a teacher and helped our students improve their English skills.  With my first exposure to volunteer management, I have truly enjoyed training new volunteers and then seeing them shine in the classrooms and in tutoring.  We could not function without our dedicated volunteers.   I will miss our volunteers though I know they will be in good hands with Claudia, Carrie, and the next AmeriCorps Member.

Last, but not least, I could not have enjoyed this year of service without the staff of Loudoun Literacy Council.  As a small staff, we have all come to know each other, and I’m thankful for the friendships that have now been formed.   I’ve been fortunate to have Claudia as a great supervisor who pushed us to acquire experience in our career field and wanting the best for us.  I also am grateful for Carrie, who brings energy and dedication, to the job every single day.   Carrie and I have spent countless hours together and brought out the best of each other.  I know the next AmeriCorps member will learn a lot from her and the rest of the staff here.

For my future plans, I hope to stay involved in the ESOL field either as a career or volunteer experience.  Teaching has been a rewarding experience, and I truly enjoy working with adults and helping them reach their fullest potential.

If you would like to continue to keep in touch, you can connect with me on LinkedIn here or email me at my personal email here.  I hope that I am not away for too long, but I will always carry this experience and all those who I came to know over this year with me wherever I go.   Thank you to all that made my year of service one of the most rewarding experiences of my life so far.

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On July 12th, the Adult Literacy Program Staff and Loudoun Literacy Council’s Executive Director headed to BEACON for Adult Literacy in Bristow, VA to attend the 2012-2013 AmeriCorps End of Year Celebration. The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia AmeriCorps team was also in attendance to tour the beautiful grounds of the monastery, share reflections of our term of service with one another, and say our last goodbyes to fellow AmeriCorps Members and staff members.

It has been a year of new challenges, inspiration, and transformation for all of us.  At the event, we shared our motivations to teach our adult immigrant learners, not only the English language, but life skills that are pertinent to day-to-day success.  In our discussion about our year of service, a common theme of “flexibility” became present.  All of us have realized as both administrative staff and ESOL teachers that every day brought a new experience that required adaptability and innovation.  We learned that each class we taught was uniquely different and each student that we tutored had a different way of learning.  We also came to appreciate our learners for their determination to learn this challenging English language and their willingness to come to English class or a tutoring session once or twice per week.  We have learned so much from our students including understanding a new level of hard work and perseverance.

After the conclusion of this 2012-2013 service year in August, most of us will be on our separate ways, but we will always have this amazing experience of service where we grew together as a team and as individuals.  As AmeriCorps Members, we dedicated ourselves to a year of national and community service, and our service has been fulfilled teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.  We are thankful for this experience, and we understand the value to always continue to serve in our local communities.

To learn more about AmeriCorps, click here.

 

Carrie Robinson, AmeriCorps Members 2012-2013

GED Spring 2013With a snap, Loudoun Literacy Council’s Spring GED class has come to a close. It seemed like only yesterday when I was waiting for the students on the first day, learning surveys in hand, determined to build the social studies and language arts portion of the class around the students’ personal strengths and needs. It immediately became clear upon the students’ arrival, however, that their strengths and interests would enhance the class far beyond any targeted teaching strategy ever could. One student, newly arrived in the United States from Pakistan, for example, expressed his interest in poetry by reciting a monologue from Hamlet. Additionally, something I was surprised by but shouldn’t have been, all of the students spoke enthusiastically of their own personal reading habits. One lady explained how she regularly read to her young daughter before bed, for example, and another young man pulled a copy of one of  Paulo Coelho’s books from his backpack and told us how his brother turned him on to the author, who he has been following ever since.

Over the semester, we were able to cover a lot of ground. In addition to reading and discussion centered around the content subjects of World History, United States History, and Economics, we spent a considerable amount of time looking at and developing the critical thinking skills that are needed not simply to do well on the GED, but also to be engaged citizens. A theme we focused on was “C.A.S.A.”, the acronym I use to refer to the comprehension, analysis, synthesis, and application skills that one should use when reading a text or looking an information-laden visual. I’ll never forget a lesson we did on Christopher Columbus during which we compared a textbook version of Columbus’s heroic discovery of America to a first-hand account written by Columbus himself, which explained how he wished to enslave the indigenous people he found in the new land. The students were able to look deeply into this history and reveal the bias that is always present in writing, even in more official sources like textbooks.They were also able to apply this history to the present by discussing their thoughts about why we celebrate Columbus today, and whether or not this is a good thing. GED Class Spring 2013

I most enjoyed working with the students on developing their writing skills. Even though we only spent a few weeks talking about and practicing paragraph writing, reading the last writing assignment the students turned in, I can state with full confidence that considerable progress was made. I was always excited to sit down and read the students’ weekly writing assignments, and was delighted to see more structured and developed paragraph writing as time went on.

Now that the course has come to a close, I am sad to see the students go, and hope that they will return for the summer term. I think of their passion, hard work, and motivation, and am left inspired. What does it take to study for the GED test while raising a family and working long hours to support them? I think of how some of the students do this with great resilience, energy, and happiness, and however cliche it is to say, my faith in the human spirit is bolstered. For this, I have the students to send my gratitude.

Written by Jerry Stewart, Adult Literacy Program Volunteer, June 2013

GED Class Spring 2013

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Susan’s Reflections:

This past Monday, I gave out certificates to my last class of the spring term at Cascades Library.  It felt that the class had just started, but the eight weeks flew by once again!

The spring term covered the topics of health, housing, and occupations.  At Guilford Elementary, my class learned about health.  Students learned the parts of the body, different types of aches and pains, and going to the doctor.  They completed different activities such as interviewing each other about how often they get headaches to role playing in the class about if they should or should not take aspirin for a fever.

Both classes at Guilford Elementary and Cascades Library learned about housing.  We talked about the different rooms in a house, what is outside a house, accidents that occur at home, housing ads, and making phone calls about places for rent.  Students worked with real housing ads in picking houses they liked and houses they did not like.  They also talked about their current house and their dream house.

Also, my class at Cascades Library learned about different types of occupations, forms of identification, reading job ads, practicing what you would say at job interviews, and how to fill out job applications.  Students worked with real job ads picking out jobs they liked and did not like.  They also interviewed classmates about their skills and what type of job they would like to have.  At the end, students had the opportunity to complete job applications.

As I continue to teach, I find myself growing as a teacher.  My lesson plans have developed from the fall term into much more detailed and thorough plans for this spring term.  This term, the materials were tougher for some students.  One of the biggest lessons I learned was it is okay to slow down and one lesson may take two classes to teach.   Again, I am thankful for my class aides, Jackie and Laura, who were there to provide more individualized help for our students!

Though another term has ended, I am glad to have had the opportunity to see students grow from their first day of class.  Some students have truly come out of their shells and progressed in their English speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills.  A few students did not know any English at the beginning of the term, and by the last class, they could make some simple conversations.   One student who also took the class in the winter now has a part-time job and has opened a banking account.

My favorite part of the class has been watching the friendships form in the classroom. This term, some students met for coffee and some students would call each other on the phone each week.   The forming of cross-cultural friendships has been one of the most rewarding parts of this spring teaching term and this AmeriCorps experience.

Carrie’s Reflections:

I cannot believe another term has gone by! This spring term, like all the rest, has been such a learning experience for me as a teacher. Teaching units on the health, the house and home, work, and family really opened my eyes to the complexities of the English language. My adult ESL learners were such an inspiration for me because of their determination to learn, correct and perfect the English language both in speaking conversationally and writing. As I was planning my lessons for this session, I was overwhelmed with the amount of grammar used and the longer dialogues present, but I quickly learned that my students were eager to grasp on to the challenges. And they thrived!

Throughout the 8 week session, I kept thinking to myself, “What if I was in their shoes? Would I be able to learn so much in such little time?” Honestly, I’m not sure if I could do it. And, I am so proud that my students, who have busy home and work lives, take the time to spend 2-4 hours in a classroom for two months and focus their energies on learning this complicated language. I was so impressed when my students were able to create their own dialogues using complex language skills such as contractions, the future with will, adverbs, etc. Also, incorporating dialogues into every class session really improved my students speaking abilities by way of better pronunciation and greater confidence levels. Having my students practice the conversation with their partner and saying their conversations aloud to the whole class, allowed them to eventually become comfortable speaking in the English language.

But I definitely could not have taught my two classes and seen so much progress in my student without my teacher assistants! I am so grateful for my teaching assistants Beth W. and Tina O. They are incredible in the classroom and their enthusiasm to help the students is so motivating to the students. I’m proud to say that they will both be taking on lead positions for the summer adult ESL session. They are going to do a fantastic job!

As the summer session approaches (the last session of the year!), I will bring new knowledge into the classroom.